The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
The Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, italicized above, basically says that any power not given to the federal government is given to the people or the states.
The U.S. Justice Department is considering intervening in legal challenges to the Green Light law, according to documents filed by the U.S. Attorney of the Western District of New York last week.
The department filed a motion to extend its deadline to decide whether to intervene in a lawsuit filed by Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns over the summer challenging the law that would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for drivers’ licenses.
Under the new law, local departments of motor vehicles and county clerk offices are prohibited from sharing private information about those who apply for licenses with immigration enforcement agencies. Kearns’ suit argues that it is a felony to withhold information about undocumented immigrants from those entities.
But in a brief filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union in September, attorneys argued that Kearns’ claim violates the 10th Amendment, which guarantees states’ authority over policy matters not delegated to the federal government.
“When the federal government attempts to force state and local jurisdictions to enact federal programs and policies, it impermissibly commandeers those governments,” according to the brief.
If the Green Light Law is to succeed in New York, the federal government can’t step over the nation’s Constitution and intrude on the rights of states to govern as they see fit. An intervention by the U.S. Justice Department sounds like the way to go.